When former professional basketballer Chris Cameron was brewing some beer with friends about five years ago, he had the thought “it would be cool to do this with spirits”, although that may technically have been when Naught Gin was conceived, it’s taken a lot for it to be born.
“I did a lot, a lot, a lot of reading and research,” Chris told Bars and Clubs.
“Then I went and bought a few little stills and started trying to learn the nuances of distilling and putting what I had read into practice, and that’s how it started.”
From there Chris decided in 2017 to look at distilling as a career option and put a business plan into place, then he and business investor Marcus Hansen spoke about the plan and the distillery grew from there.
Then came the process of perfecting Naught’s recipe and Chris crafted more than 300 distillations as he worked to find what he was looking for in the gin.
“The first distillation I did was probably 2016 and ever since then it’s just been little tweaks and refinements trying to get the right balance of juniper with citrus. And then trying to get the right balance with pepperberry and cassia bark, things like that.
“In around 2017 I did some full scale distillations and that really gave me a good idea of what I wanted and where I wanted the recipe to finish. We’ve based our recipe on a contemporary dry gin and we’ve got some Australian botanicals in there, but what I really wanted to do was to have something that was approachable, flavourful, but also hold true to being juniper-driven as well.
“So it’s taken a few years to finalise the recipe, but you just don’t know what it’s going to be until you’ve got your own equipment, because the stills all behave differently and you extract different flavours at different temperatures so it’s all an experiment until you have your own equipment.”
So, having worked on it for so long, and tried so many different recipes, what is it about this gin that Chris really likes?
“What I love about the gin is that you do have that nice juniper note, but I really love the finish. I like that it’s lingering. I like the mouthfeel. I like that you can get some star anise on the finish, that’s what sits with me really well.
“I find when you drink it in a gin and tonic, or straight, it finishes long and that’s probably what I am proud of the most.”
With the gin now on sale, Chris and Marcus also wanted to build a tasting room and bar at the Eltham-site where the still is housed. But with COVID that has been put on pause, and while it’s not impacted production Chris did admit to “the worst timing ever”.
“We pressed pause on the bar and that was strictly because of COVID and we thought there was no point in having a bar just sitting there when no-one can walk through the door.
“From the distillation aspect, it’s been OK because once your equipment is up and running it’s fine. I’ve been allowed to be at work so I can still distil and bottle and things like that. What has been a challenge is getting trades on site, so that’s put us back three or four months.
“We definitely never said ‘this is not the right time’, I don’t think there is ever a good time, we just happened to pick the worst time. It wasn’t planned, but you deal with these things, you adapt and hopefully it pays off for us.”
But Chris said he hopes gin-lovers will enjoy Naught and that he hopes it will be about more than just gin.
“This has been a really difficult year for people, so we wanted to create something which would bring back a sense of decadence, playfulness and joy into people’s lives. I think it’s important to have those special moments when things are tough.
“We want you to feel a little bit indulgent and elegant as you enjoy Naught in a cocktail on a night out or at home with someone special.”
The gin works in a classic G&T, as well as classics like a Negroni and Tom Collins, the Naught Southside is recommended as the ideal summer drink.
It also works straight, in fact Chris told Bars and Clubs: “I would love if someone comes to me and says ‘I actually prefer it by itself’ because that’s the ultimate compliment isn’t it? When someone would drink it in its natural form.”
Naught Gin is available now.